brain sizes: Einstein's and women's
jwknight at polbox.com
Mon Aug 26 18:30:00 EST 2002
<raugust at ptd.net> wrote in message
news:fSca9.1155$AK3.757157 at nnrp1.ptd.net...
> Dear Bob,
> " Pornography seems to be in the mind of the beholder. If you don't like
> it, don't listen to it."
> For us to do that, we would have to surrender our telephones, cancel our
> cable TV and modem services, trash our radios, never go to any stores, and
> hope and pray that some soul would find us to deliver food and clothing to
> our caves.
> This is thanks to the Jewish liberal media.
> Richard C. August
And it would be easier, and a heck of a lot more fun, to watch the tail end
of the USS Madagascar as the jews disappear over the horizon.
Why should the vast majority of Americans be denied access to their own
"news" and media and culture and images of fellow White Christians just
because the jews are permitted to get away with bombarding them with all
this jewish filth?
Bombarded by Barbie
With kids exposed to 1,500 commercial messages a day, how can we
fight back? Media literacy is the answer you haven't heard enough
B Y B A R B A R A S O L O W
There are four television sets in the Della Maggiora home, but the
screens most often stay blank. For this Durham family, TV is "not a
freebie," as mom, Christine, asserts. Instead, 7-year-old Adam and 9-
year-old Max do chores to earn blocks of half-hour "screen time"
privileges that also extend to videos, movies and surfing the Web.
The TV set the kids are allowed to use is relegated to a small,
rectangular den off the main living room of their house in Eno
Commons. (There's another tiny set in the brightly colored kitchen
where Christine watches cooking shows, one left over from her college
days that's now in her office, and a fourth in the master bedroom.)
August 14, 2002
C O V E R F E A T U R E
Their parents monitor the boys' consumption of other media as well.
"Rap music is OK but certain types are not," says Christine. "And
they had to buy their own Britney Spears CDs. We certainly weren't
going to buy them that."
She and Paul, both in their 30s, grew up as self-described "latchkey
kids" who spent long hours watching TV and playing video games
without much parental supervision. When they had children, they
decided to do things differently.
Christine, who's taken only part-time jobs since becoming a mom, is
the household's self-appointed queen of the screen, laying down the
rules about what can be watched and for how long--and trying to offer
alternatives. At one time, she was a staff member of LimiTV, a
Raleigh-based nonprofit that works to alert parents, teachers and
community groups to the harm too much TV can do to kids' grades,
behavior and health.
Paul, who works full time as a computer engineer for Cisco Systems in
Research Triangle Park, admits he lacks the same will power when it
comes to the family's media diet. "We play this little game," he
says. "Christine stands firm on what she believes in and I'll push
the boundaries. The kids will want something and I'll want it and
she'll say 'No.' But I've grown to where I really like the rules and
I'm proud of them."
A decade ago, the Della Maggioras' efforts to reduce their kids'
media exposure might have seemed quaint--well out there on the
granola-eating fringes of the parenting spectrum. But as the volume
and intensity of media messages aimed at young people has cranked up
in recent years, the family's rules look downright tame.
How high's the dial? The Center for a New American Dream, a Maryland-
based group dedicated to lessening the sledge-hammer impact of
consumerism on the environment, reports that Americans are now
exposed to more than 1,500 commercial messages each day--up from 560
a day in the 1960s. Advertisers are spending $3 billion a year on
commercials beamed at younger and younger kids--more than 20 times
the amount they spent a decade ago.
It's a ubiquitous cycle: Bombardment by Barbie on Saturday morning
TV, violence even in movies rated as kid-friendly, military-style
video games, toys tied to breakfast cereals tied to fast food tied to
movie sequels. Even non-commercial media's not immune--just look at
the marketing blitz surrounding PBS's Teletubbies.
This generation of parents grew up on TV and some don't see a
problem. But many others are left feeling overwhelmed and
outmaneuvered by a media barrage their kids are absorbing at a
previously unimaginable pace.
"I feel if I don't take a stand, we'll all just fall into the abyss,"
Christine says. "It's not just TV. It's everything they're taking
With media messages more subtle and ubiquitous than ever before,
simply turning off the set is no longer a solution. Instead, a
growing number of educators and activists say the answer is "media
literacy"--teaching kids to recognize and understand the images they
see onscreen. The idea is to give kids the critical thinking tools
they need to be "literate" in a media-saturated culture. So instead
of banning MTV, the theory goes, parents should talk to their kids
about whether the depictions of young people they see in the videos
jibe with their own reality.
Though media literacy is now a goal in public schools in all 50
states, it's not being taught in a sustained, effective way.
"It's not specifically identified in any curriculum," says Ron
Anderson, senior director of Wake County's Safe Schools/Healthy
Students initiative and a member of a new community media literacy
coalition called MediaSmart. "I see this as similar to character
education in that we need to infuse it in all of our classes."
The literacy approach can work, supporters say and more people should
know about it. And the stakes of not teaching it are high.
"It's hard to be a parent in the media generation," says Chapel Hill
resident Kathleen Clarke Pearson, a pediatrician and founder of an
early statewide campaign called the Coalition for Pulling the Plug on
Media Violence. "Because every single day that parents haven't taken
control of their children's media diet, these kids are growing up too
fast, they're growing up afraid and desensitized to violence."
A movement whose time has come
Media literacy isn't a new concept in media theory or education, says
UNC-Chapel Hill journalism professor Jane Brown, who's been studying
these issues for years. But it's been given new urgency by the rapid
swirl of commercial images being targeted to youth.
"Kids are now a consumer market in a way they never have been
before," Brown says. "And the reason is the spending power of
children and adolescents. The average kid in the United States today
has some $64 in spending money per week of their own. And they have a
lot of influence over what their family buys."
Commercial messages are showing up in places that were once ad-free--
on movie preview screens, Web pages, school banners, even on the
clothing children wear. An online report by the national Consumers
Union called "Selling America's Kids" (www.consumersunion.org)
describes how an American child can now wake up in a bed made with
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sheets, sit down to Breakfast with Barbie
cereal, race off to school with her Simpsons book bag and settle down
at her desk to watch a 12-minute news program with two minutes of
ads, courtesy of Channel One.
As a result, Brown says, the lines between popular and commercial
culture are blurrier than ever. And it's not just the ads that are
causing alarm. A growing body of scientific evidence links excessive
TV watching (more than 10 hours per week) to poor grades and higher
levels of fear, obesity and aggression in kids. A 1994 study
published in the journal Pediatrics found that in one year, an
"average" American child can witness as many as 12,000 acts of
violence on TV, many of them committed by attractive hero figures.
Another study cited by Brown found that 40 percent of the sexual
behaviors seen in prime-time TV comedies fit the legal definition of
With the typical American child now spending more time watching TV,
videotapes and playing video games than almost any other activity (an
average of five to six hours per day for kids aged 2-18, says a study
cited by Brown), the images they see are hugely influential.
"A lot of parents think that the worst thing about TV is it's a waste
of time," says Steve Jurovics, founder of LimiTV. "But at its worst,
it's much worse than that."
A host of experts and organizations now recommend strict limits on
TV, especially for children under 5. (See "You Don't Have to Kill
Your TV," p. 21) The American Academy of Pediatrics has even started
giving its members a sample "media history" checklist for young
patients that asks about the type and amount of TV they watch.
But what about other media now readily available to kids? How should
parents negotiate the maze of options there? In the future, will
parents have to spend all their time being screen cops?
Media literacy proponents, whose numbers now include some members of
the media industry, say that's where the literacy concept can help,
by training children--and parents--to be mindful of the messages
they're seeing onscreen. One local example: Third grade teachers at
McDougal Middle School in Chapel Hill have used a videotape called
Buy Me That Too! to teach children about the persuasive methods toy
advertisers use to get kids to buy their products--including showing
the toys doing things they can't actually do once you get them home.
But appeals that are only about restricting what kids take in run the
risk of making the forbidden products more attractive. Researchers
stress that not all kids use media in the same way, for the same
reasons, or draw the same lessons from what they see.
"We have to be sure we have a balanced response that's not
overreactive," says Kate Howard Franch, program coordinator at
SAFEchild, a Raleigh child abuse prevention group, and chair of
MediaSmart." We need to help children comprehend what's out there."
And campaigns that only target some aspects of popular culture also
risk being anti-democratic. The Rev. Paul Scott, a Durham minister
who is leading an "Afro-centric" campaign to end sexist and overly
violent messages in hip hop, notes that conservative drives against
the music have too often been blanket condemnations of black youth
culture. "They don't know 2 Live Crew from Public Enemy," he says.
At its most basic, supporters say media literacy is another avenue
for teaching young people how a key aspect of their society works. At
its most ambitious, proponents hope the movement will spark a new
generation of activists who'll agitate for a media system that's more
responsive to citizens and less beholden to commercial interests.
That's a tall order, but one many think is doable.
"This is a multi-faceted approach that can take place in the home,
schools and the greater society," Clarke Pearson says. "Who would
have thought 20 years ago that we wouldn't be allowed to smoke in a
restaurant or that the cover would have been blown on the tobacco
industry? Always, the first solution is educating people."
Media Literacy 101
Ask the experts about media literacy and the first thing they're
likely to do is turn around and ask what you mean by the term.
Definitions vary even among supporters, and there are lively internal
debates about what works and what doesn't.
Still, there's general agreement that media literacy means teaching
kids to "read" and respond to messages contained in images they see
on TV, in movies, music videos and ads. "A media literate person
doesn't know all the answers, but knows how to ask the right
questions," reads an online factsheet from the Los Angeles-based
Center for Media Literacy. "Who created this message? Why? How and
why did they choose what to include and what to leave out? How is it
intended to influence me?"
Whitney Vanderwerff, who heads the Greensboro-based National Alliance
for Nonviolent Programming, says she describes media literacy in her
presentations as "a string of infinitives: The ability to access,
analyze, evaluate, influence and produce communication in all its
forms." That definition encompasses a variety of teachable moments,
from parents talking to their children about a commercial they've
just seen, to a peer education group at Planned Parenthood parsing
magazine ads for messages about teen sex.
When it comes to dealing with violent media images, Vanderwerff
encourages parents to raise questions with their children about how
those images stack up to real life. "I get more calls about video
games than anything," she says. "There's one game where you get to
run over people and that's how you score. One thing to do would be to
say, 'Let's look at this in real life. What is happening here and
what's not being shown? What would happen to you if you were in a car
With older kids, Vanderwerff has used programs such as the Foundation
for Media Education's Game Over, which shows how victims of violent
videogames are most often female and non-white, and HBO's Hate.com,
which explores how hate groups reach young people on the Internet.
Schools are a natural place to reach young people with the media
literacy message. Currently, some form of media education is included
in public school curricula in all 50 states--mostly in English,
social studies or health classes. On paper at least, North Carolina
is out in front, having made visual literacy a goal as early as 1985.
In the state's public English Language Arts Curriculum, for example,
students in grades 3-5 are taught to "use media and technology as a
tool" and "use critical analysis to evaluate media messages,"
according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction's official
Still, experts say media classes in U.S. public schools are less
comprehensive than those taught in countries such as Australia and
Canada, which also have powerful media and capitalist economies. In
those countries, media education is a more formalized part of a
student's training. To graduate from high school in Canada, a student
must have completed 30 percent of their language arts units in "media
Part of the difference lies in the fact that the United States has a
less centralized education system, making it harder to deliver
resources and training (and mandates) to individual teachers. And
part of it, says Appalachian State University media studies Professor
David Considine--who three years ago founded the country's first
master's degree program in media literacy--are the back-to-basics
benchmarks that now hold sway over U.S. public schools.
"If I have a principal who's interested mainly in test scores, how
can I get him interested in media literacy?" asks Considine, who's
chair of a national media literacy conference slated for Baltimore in
While media literacy may be outlined in curriculum goals, Considine
says teachers are seldom trained or encouraged to make it a reality
in the classroom. And in some areas, even the goal is lacking. "You
look at the national social studies agenda and mass media are never
even mentioned," he says. "They're still talking in that 50-year-old
paradigm of the key institutions being the church, school and
That's not to say that the subject never comes up in the classroom.
Alan Teasley taught media literacy for years in his English classes
at Durham's Southern High School--he just didn't call it that.
Teasley and his colleague Ann Wilder taught students to "read" and
write about messages contained in a variety of Hollywood and foreign
films. They found students were more enthusiastic about writing when
the topic was something they cared about--like film. And in their
classes, students who hadn't necessarily been proficient in writing
were often pleased to discover that they were skilled at "reading"
Wilder says kids also became more informed about how film works.
"When you tell students that Sylvester Stallone is really only 5-foot-
6 but he looks taller because of the angle he's filmed at, it's a
revelation," she says.
The two teachers wrote a book about their experiences called Reel
Conversations: Reading Films with Young Adults. They've produced
viewing guides and have led numerous workshops for national
educational organizations and conferences.
Locally, though, their work hasn't attracted as much attention. "The
administrators basically left us alone," says Wilder, who retired
last year and is now a consultant to the Durham school system. "And
it's only just lately that we've had the textbook people calling to
ask, 'Can we put part of your book in our textbook?'"
Teasley, who holds a Ph.D. in education and is now director for
grants administration for the Durham school system, says there's
still a lot of ambivalence about media literacy. "A lot of people
feel, let's not expose the kids to more media," he says. "Where it's
also a tough sell is when people think it's an add-on or a frill. But
really, how you see yourself reflected in the media is a crucial
issue for kids."
Though local school administrators insist that media literacy is
"woven into" the curriculum, it's hard to see where those threads
connect to form a consistent approach. One reason is the lack of
community consensus about how to handle the subject of mass media.
"In our community there is such a range of values in terms of just
trusting TV," says Bob Stocking, director of instructional technology
and media for the Chapel Hill/Carrboro schools. "There are plenty of
bumper stickers saying 'Kill Your TV.' Others don't seem as
Still, he adds, young people's expanding use of the Internet and
other new "Information Revolution" media may provide an opening for
raising the literacy issue in a more sweeping way.
"We're having to tow this line between wanting to provide kids with
as much access to resources as possible--our school resource centers
have twice as many computers as they did years ago. But we're not
always able to monitor the kids," Stocking says. "It's important to
train kids and teachers so they are equipped with the tools to make
Anderson, of Wake County's MediaSmart coalition, says that task
shouldn't be left to the schools alone. His Safe Schools program got
a federal grant that's helped them produce media literacy guides and
conduct training sessions for parents and community groups, as well
as teachers. The initiative also produced a 30-minute TV show that
aired on WRAL-TV (which is a member of MediaSmart) about the
importance of media literacy.
"This isn't just a school issue," Anderson says. "What schools do
should support what happens in the family. These are really values
issues that we need parents to think about so they can talk about
them with their children."
Finding what works
Late on a muggy Saturday afternoon, a patchwork quilt of parents,
teachers and students covers the wide, wooden porch of the Center for
Documentary Studies at Duke. They're here to celebrate the end of
another session of Youth Document Durham, a summer program that
teaches teenagers photography, interviewing and other documentary
The crowd surges excitedly around exhibits of the work that
participants have created during the three-week session. Mass media
is a powerful unifying theme. In one room, a homemade CD that weaves
rap music and snippets of street interviews about youth power plays
on a tape deck. In another, teens have used photographs to create
mock ads: "Get a grip on the smoothest, shiniest, most computer-
enhanced hair," reads the pitch over a picture of a young Latina
pinning back thick, wavy locks.
In the absence of more enthusiastic media literacy in schools, many
community groups have picked up the ball. The Alliance for a Media
Literate America reports that nearly 40 percent of media literacy
advocates work in fields other than elementary or secondary
Unlike many community-based efforts, the Duke center's program isn't
tied to a particular agenda--smoking or teen pregnancy prevention,
for example. Instead, teachers concentrate on empowering kids to
produce their own images.
"We start with the hands-on and build towards analysis," says Barbara
Lau, the center's director of community programs. "That's the
The center's been sponsoring a similar program called Literacy
Through Photography in Durham public schools for more than a decade.
It also helped teachers at E.K. Powe Elementary School get their own
"Neighborhood Project" documentary unit off the ground. That project
sends first and second graders, armed with cameras and audio
equipment, out into their neighborhoods to document daily life.
The idea behind these programs is that effective media literacy
should involve young people as producers, not just passive consumers
of media. "What you're trying to do is get people to question what
they see, question the images and motivations of media products," Lau
Amina Cliette did audio interviews and took photographs for the
program's unit on youth power. "Working with the audio, I cut out a
lot of what people said," says the 16-year-old Northern High School
student. "That makes me realize you don't see the whole truth when
you see something in the media."
But while few would argue with the aims of media literacy, the
question remains: Does it work? Can media literacy really change the
way young people respond to the onslaught of messages their culture's
aiming at them?
Anecdotally, the answer is "yes"--at least in the short-term. One
often-cited example is Florida's "Truth" campaign on teen tobacco
use. Funded with money from the national tobacco settlement, the
campaign made high school students advisors for a statewide media
blitz, including ads that broke down the ways cigarettes are marketed
to kids. The Truth campaign employed the same techniques advertisers
use to attract young smokers--promotion, market research, targeting
audiences, name-branding--to attack the message that smoking is cool.
In the first two years of the program (1998-2000), the proportion of
Florida middle schoolers who said they'd smoked in the previous month
dropped from 18.5 percent to 8.6 percent. For high schoolers, the
percentage fell from 27.4 to 20.9.
Closer to home, the North Carolina Governor's Institute on Alcohol
and Substance Abuse will soon release the results of a study of a
media literacy program it sponsored in Durham schools last spring. In
that program, students at UNC-Chapel Hill taught middle schoolers
about the effects of alcohol and tobacco ads--including such stealth
techniques as product placement spots in popular movies and TV shows.
But even staunch supporters of media literacy admit the jury's still
out when it comes to the long-term effects of such training. Studies
that would track kids exposed to media literacy over time are
expensive, and the evidence just isn't in yet. And there are other
questions--including whether programs like the Truth campaign
ultimately make young people more fearful by showing only the
negative effects of media.
Internally, the movement also has been debating whether media
literacy programs sponsored by industry organizations such as the
National Cable and Telecommunications Association and The Discovery
Channel are "co-opting" media literacy by softening its criticisms of
Another schism has appeared between those who want media literacy to
concentrate mainly on warning kids about dangerous media messages,
and those who insist that training must start by acknowledging the
pleasure young people get from using media. (UNC's Brown describes
this split as "inoculation" versus "liberation").
The disagreements highlight the risk that media literacy will become
a movement that preaches mainly to the converted. And there are
worries that under the broad umbrella of media literacy, conservative
groups will be promoting their own aims--keeping talk of
contraception or images of gay teens off the airwaves, or attacking
black youth culture.
Supporters of media literacy say the strategy can be an alternative
Robin Franklin, a teacher who started the Neighborhood Project at
E.K. Powe Elementary School, has seen the damage too much screen time
has done to the learning skills of some of her students. But she
worries that a simplistic boycott stance will leave many more behind.
"Kids know a lot based on TV. It's our culture, it's how it's
transmitted," says Franklin, a slim, pretty woman who has the clear
diction of someone used to working with youngsters. "We're the
keepers of that culture, so how are we going to say, 'You can't
watch?' We're assuming that kids are going to be able to get that
information elsewhere and not all of them will."
Brown, of the UNC journalism school puts it this way: "If we educate
the consumers, we won't need the censors."
Media literacy could go a long way toward helping children make sense
of commercial media messages. But even supporters argue that it
doesn't absolve parents from their responsibility to monitor what
their kids are watching.
Christine Della Maggiora, for one, isn't ready to give up that role.
Around her family's kitchen table, media debates are a lot less
abstract. Just now, Christine's talking to Max, 9, about why he can't
see the film, The Lord of the Rings. She feels it's too violent.
Max isn't going quietly on this one. While his mom slices up some
fresh-baked banana bread, he makes his case.
"First of all, we've already read the book and second, I know someone
who's a year younger than me who's seen it already," Max says,
pushing blond bangs back from his eyes. "C'mon, Mom! It's PG-13."
His younger brother Adam looks up from an old Mad magazine he's
There's a heartbeat's pause before Christine comes back with the
traditional line (in response to the friend who's seen the film): "If
he jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?"
Although she counts herself as a supporter of expanding media
literacy in schools and the community, Christine insists that's not
going to let her off the hook. "We have all this pressure through the
media to buy stuff and it influences how we see ourselves," she says.
"But in the end, the job of creating your family is creating a refuge
from the rest of the world. You have to make a refuge from the
More Media Stories:
"Voice" of the People? - North Carolina's media are collaborating on
their campaign coverage again, but the jury's still out on whether
Your Voice, Your Vote improves political debate or stifles it. - Zach
Hoskins (September 20, 2000)
A Cheap Violin - The journalistic sins of "The News & Observer." -
John Yewell (February 14, 2001)
Wigging Out - The Sixth Annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
premieres important new films including "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"
and "Taboo." - Nathan Gelgud (August 8, 2001)
Got rBGH? - Milk is big business to the U.S. government, large dairy
manufacturers and Monsanto, which makes a genetically engineered
growth hormone that causes the cows to create a byproduct that has
been linked to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer. Why
is it considered safe in the United States, but not in Europe or
Canada? - Ché Green (August 7, 2002)
Maple View Farm: Local Dairy Doesn't Use rBGH - One local dairy is
selling milk that doesn't contain growth hormones-just look for Maple
View Farm's milk in its signature glass bottles at a store near you.
And there are brands of organic milk available that also have no
added hormones. - Ben Abram (August 7, 2002)
Scientists Disagree on the Dangers of rBGH - Scientists are at odds
over the dangers of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH. -
Hanns-Peter Nagel (August 7, 2002)
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